A 28-Hour Natural Birth – Lisa Harrison

Angela and myself decided that with Mother’s Day coming up, it would be a perfect opportunity to share our birth stories. With each being totally different to the next persons, I always love to hear about what other women experienced. Funnily enough, I have never really spoken about my birth story on my blog, and haven’t touched much on the topic to anybody other than close friends – for no other reason than I just never really knew quite where to begin. Perhaps I just thought that it never really stood out as nothing ‘unusual’ happened. But, each birth story is unique and just as important and precious as the next. So here’s mine. (How strange and emotional it is to take this walk back down memory lane.)

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I was diagnosed with PCos when I was 18 years old. I was warned that there was a very high possibility that I may never fall pregnant. But then God had a different plan for my life.

As a younger mom, giving birth a week after turning 22 – I didn’t have many friends who had previously given birth to sort of prepare myself. I had no clue what to expect, as none of us do as first time moms. I had my heart set on a natural birth and didn’t want to have any pain relief. Because of this, I decided I wanted to give birth in a place that wouldn’t allow me the option of an epidural. I did some research and had heard wonderful things about a local maternity home. Being a small, home styled place with only a couple of maternity wards sounded just like what I wanted. Knowing that my sons delivery would be handled by a professional midwife left me feeling 100% comfortable with my decision.

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On Monday 25th August 2014, I spent the day feeling uncomfortable. Nothing too unusual for being 40 weeks pregnant. I plodded around with a belly so big I felt as if I would topple over at any given moment. I recall so vividly going through to visit my mom. We went for a long walk on the beach, and I told her I felt so achy. Think menstrual cramps on day 1. That day came to an end, and Tuesday arrived. By 11am I was starting to feel a little lousy, but had a close girl friend over for tea. Hubby was at work, and I wanted a bit of company. We joked saying ‘imagine I was actually in labour’. Just before she left, I thought I should perhaps call my maternity home just to check if this were actually early stages of labour. The midwife was in a meeting, and I was told I would be called back. Nothing. As the day went on, I started feeling more and more cramps, and was starting to feel rather lousy. My friend went home and I called David to tell him how I was feeling. He asked if he should come home from work – and I told him that I was going to try and get some rest because I knew that I would wake up if things got further along (if it even was the real thing).

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I woke up from my nap, and decided to call David’s aunt, who used to be a midwife. I explained the way that I was feeling, which had definitely gotten worse since I lay down for my nap – however not unbearable – just really uncomfortable. She told me that she definitely thought that I was in early stages of labour and that I best just rest as I had a long day ahead of me.

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A bit unsure of what was happening, I decided to try and get some more rest. David got home from work, and I so clearly recall it being such a stormy evening. He made himself some supper and I remember him asking me if I wanted anything. I responded with ‘No, I’m not feeling great’. And he told me that he thinks I should because I need energy. I didn’t want anything, and told him I was going to go to sleep, because I had a feeling it was going to be a long night ahead. I lay down on his lap on the couch for a bit, trying to embrace my last few hours (so I thought) with this belly, and I remember feeling my stomach going rock hard, and then going back to normal. I was obsessing over timing my contractions, and I remember feeling so confused. Surely they were supposed to be consistentΒ like I was taught in antenatal classes? They were so irregular in their gaps.

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I went to sleep, it must’ve been about 7:00pm. By 10:30pm I was woken up with sharp, painful contractions. I was scared, but comforted by having David with me. Thinking back to my thoughts, my mind is blank. I can’t remember what I was thinking – I have a feeling the only thing on my mind was trying to get through the pain of each contraction. I remember my exercise ball being my best friend. I lived on it. David was trying to understand how bad they were, and wanted to know if we needed to go to the maternity ward. I didn’t know. I didn’t want to be sent home, and I didn’t want to have to sit in the empty maternity ward in the stormy weather if I wasn’t far along. We decided to just go after I collapsed from standing to sitting position after a contraction. I arrived by 11:15pm, bags and all with David and had an internal examination done. I was only 1cm dilated and already in excruciating pain. I felt so disheartened knowing I still had such a long way to go. They warned me, saying that I was obviously a slow dilator, and offered for me to stay in the maternity ward, but I decided to rather go home to my comfort.

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We drove back home, and I don’t remember that drive at all. What I do remember is what seemed like the darkest night of my entire life. Not in a bad way. I think as a woman, when in labour, it just kind of feels like we are alone in a way. It’s difficult to explain. David was absolutely incredible. He was there, right next to me – running bath after bath for me. Offering to rub my back if I wanted it, and checking in to see how I was at all the right times. But, the pain that we experience is indescribable, and we are so focused and in our own world while in labour that it almost feels as if we are in a room on our own. I lived on my exercise ball, with two ottomans piled on top of each other as a surface for me to rest my head on between contractions as well as in a bath tub that entire night. I couldn’t find a single thing that made me comfortable. In the house we were renting at the time, the bath tub was narrow and quite small. The water never entirely covered my belly. I remember David making me numerous cups of tea for me to try to drink when in the bath because I was so freezing cold. I remember him dozing off and then frantically running into the bathroom to see if I needed his help out of the bath and back to the exercise ball. That night was long, it was tedious and all I wanted was to meet my baby boy.

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I’ve never been so happy for the sun to come up. Because I knew that the night was over. I called the midwife in the morning and said that I was just in so much pain that I had to be at least 6cm dilated. She told me to wait a little longer (because I was dilating so slowly) and to come in at 12pm unless it was unbearable. 11am came, and I told David that I needed to go. That car ride was excruciating. It felt like the longest drive of my life. Every contraction that passed was indescribable. I felt like everybody in each car we passed was driving slowly on purpose and almost assumed they should have known I was in labour. We arrived at the maternity ward, and I will never forget walking through those doors. It was Wednesday 27th August (Olly’s original due date) and there were pregnant women waiting for their ultrasounds and check ups in the waiting room. Poor women – as I walked through the doors, I had a contraction and landed in a heap on the floor. Their faces – let’s just say I will never forget them!

They took me into the room to do another internal and to monitor babies heart beat. Lying on my back was awful. The heart rate monitor wasn’t working, and after 15 minutes they had to start again. I was irritated, and in so much agony lying on my back. The lady walked out and I told David that I needed a bucket — NOW because the pain was so bad that I needed to throw up. He ran around the maternity home asking them for buckets, and ended up grabbing a steel bucket (probably a bin) out of one of the bathrooms literally just in time. Pain meds were offered to me, and David reminded me of my wish of an unmedicated birth. It turned out I was only 3cm dilated. THREE. Now 24 hours into labour, all I wanted was to meet my baby boy, and I just wanted this pain to be gone.

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The midwife arrived, and suggested I get into one of the baths to try and speed up my labour. It felt like I was in that bath for a lifetime. It must have been about an hour, and I felt this strong, uncontrollable urge to push. The midwife had gone into another room to eat some lunch and had left me with one of her assistance and David. David was amazing, assisting me with my breathing and holding my hand through each contraction. When I felt the urge to push, I frantically told the assistant to get me out of the bath and to call the midwife. Her answer was ‘no’. David ended up telling her that she had no choice after back and forth arguing with her to get me out. I kept being told to ‘stop pushing’.

I eventually got out of the bath, and I am certain that I slowed down my labour and that if I had just let my body do it’s pushing naturally, he would’ve been born right then and there in the bath tub. I was taken to the bed and this is where things took their time. It must have been about 1:00pm when I got out of the bath. 2 hours were spent with me rocking, and doing all sorts of things in hope of getting this baby to come! I remember standing totally naked in the room with my arms wrapped around David’s neck just dropping at the knees at each contraction. It was eventually time to get onto the bed and to start pushing. They broke my water and then after 45 minutes of pushing and an episiotomy, Olly had arrived. This bare, warm little person covered in vernix was plonked onto my stomach, and I remember David saying in such an emotional voice ‘Baby, you did it! He’s here.’ I think I was so exhausted and overwhelmed that I hadn’t even registered that he was out! It was a confusing moment. So completely and utterly amazing, but also surreal. I felt as if I was dreaming. As if I was living in somebody elses life. I was then told that it was time to birth the placenta. One painless push, and that was out. All I wanted was a photo of him on my stomach, I wanted him to latch and for David to then cut the umbilical cord as I had stated in my birth plan, but he was taken off of me and just before they snipped it, David quickly told them that he wanted to do it. He cut the umbilical cord and they took him to a little table to do his Apgar score, etc. I felt that it all of a sudden became so impersonal.

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Sadly, this is where it all went downhill. About 20 minutes after he was born, the midwife told David – ‘Ok, you can go home now.’ With a shocked look on his face he asked them if they were joking. They responded with ‘the baby is here, now you can go home’. I couldn’t believe it. I had just been through the most ‘traumatic’, emotional, hectic thing in my entire life, and all I wanted was to have my partner there and to have his support and to cherish these first moments together. They eventually agreed to him staying for the next hour. Our moms arrived and met their grandson, and then left. David was then told to leave. My heart literally broke as I saw him leave. All he wanted was to be with us and to be able to stare at his newborn baby.

I was never shown how to get Olly to latch and was left to work it out myself. There was absolutely no guidance. Thank goodness Olly latched naturally, and fed well. After 28 and a half hours of being in labour, all I wanted was to get into a bath to clean myself. I was in pain, tender and really sore from my episiotomy. I asked them if I could have a bath and if someone would please watch Olly. They explained to me where the bath was. Nobody offered to assist me to walk there. I climbed off of the bed and honestly thought I was bleeding to death! Not once had anybody warned me that because of my natural birth, there would be a lot of blood! I had a bath, and when I got out couldn’t find Olly. I eventually found him in the ward that I had delivered him in, and they were just clearing out his nose. They brought him back to me, and I climbed into my bed next to his little crib. About to try and go to sleep, I heard that Olly sounded like he was struggling to breath. I got up again, and asked the nurse to please check him out again. She responded ‘I already did.’ I told her that I wasn’t asking her, but telling her to check his nose, she eventually took him back to the delivery ward and checked his nose. About ten minutes later, she comes back to me and says: ‘I’ve got bad news, I’ve called an ambulance.’ My heart dropped and my entire body went cold. I was convinced that my baby had died. I rushed into the delivery room, and she told me that he was struggling to breath (respitory issues), obviously due to distress from me pushing for so long. I look at my tiny, 3.8kg baby, so delicate – and my eyes gaze to his nose – to see that the breathing tubes that were supposed to be pointed upwards into his nostrils were pointing downwards. I felt like slapping somebody! I told her ‘HE CAN’T BREATH BUT YOU DON’T EVEN HAVE THE BREATHING TUBES IN HIS NOSE???’ I was told that I must just do it myself then. So there I am, as a first time mom, scared out of my mind – totally unsure of what on earth is going on – waiting for David to arrive holding tubes up my babies nose.

The ambulance arrives, and David arrives at the same time. Olly is moved into an incubator with a drip and tubes and I ride in the ambulance with him to Mowbray Maternity Hospital. David follows in his car. We arrive, and I remember so clearly getting to the doors to the NICU passage way, and the doors being slammed in David’s face. He wasn’t warned that he wouldn’t be allowed in, and seeing those doors slam shut on his face literally broke my heart. Both being so concerned about our baby and for him to be unable to be part of what was happening was excruciating.

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I have pages left of this story, but to speed it all up a bit – Olly had the most incredible doctor at Mowbray who was so informative and she did such a good job at looking after my baby. We were able to go home on the Friday after him being in NICU for 13 hours, and in the KMC ward with me for 1 night.

It was a whirlwind for me, but I would do it all again in a heartbeat. There were times once Olly were so scary for me, and I cannot even begin to imagine how scary it must be for some moms who face bigger issues with their babies at birth. No story is the same, and we are ALL superheroes – no matter how we gave birth – natural, c-section, medicated or unmedicated. And to the moms who have adopted, we know that the pain is there for you too, in ways that I only understand because I am adopted and my mom has explained to me the pains and things she had to overcome of not having had the opportunity to experience birth herself and with her journey to adoption.

Right now, what matters the most is that I have a healthy 2 and a half year old boy who is happy and striving. And, I would do it all again…in a heartbeat.

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